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Halifax-based Java Blend reaches settlement with union

Java Blend in Halifax is pictured. (Sean Mott/CTV News Atlantic) Java Blend in Halifax is pictured. (Sean Mott/CTV News Atlantic)

A long-simmering dispute between a Halifax-based café and coffee roaster and the Service Employees International Union Local 2 (SEIU) arrived at a settlement on Monday.

According to a social media post by SEIU, the union reached the settlement with Java Blend, which will end an ongoing boycott and prompt collective agreement bargaining.

“It feels really awesome,” said Cailen Pygott, a member of the organizing committee for workers at Java Blend. “I feel my whole life for the last year has been building to this.”

Pygott said employees voted on whether or not to form a union at Java Blend a year ago, but the results were not disclosed. As part of the settlement, the votes were shared, revealing 90 per cent of workers agreed to join SEIU.

Last January, SEIU filed an Unfair Labour Practice complaint against Java Blend, alleging the termination of nine employees violated the Trade Union Act and was done “in retaliation for organizing a union” in the workplace.

At the time, Alex Lee, one of the owners of Java Blend, said the layoffs were a “financial necessity” for the business, which had been struggling since March 2020.

“In response to the complaint filed on January 31st, we had provided the union all our financials as well as working documents outlining our objective criteria for the layoffs,” a statement from Java Blend reads. “We have agreed on a settlement last night and we will approach bargaining with the same transparency. We are looking forward to continuing to work with the union and the employees in good faith to reach a collective agreement.

“Thank you to all who have supported us in different ways over the past difficult years and we look forward to continuing in providing excellent coffees and service."

SEIU organized a boycott of Java Blend in late April. With the settlement, the boycott is over and the labour complaint has been withdrawn.

Pygott said the next step will be the bargaining process, which they hope to start as soon as possible.

“This was a really long journey,” he said. “We had so much solidarity, we kept fighting and we won. We won more than we could have imagined. If we can do that, then anyone in this city and province can do that.

“If you’re any kind of worker and you’re not unionized, we’ve proved it’s possible.”

According to a news release from SEIU, the union's bargaining unit includes Java Blend cafés on North and Sackville streets, the production and roastery warehouse on Borden Avenue in Dartmouth, and the Cortado Tasting Room in Bedford. 

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